Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Brave by Robert Lipsyte

This novel is a sequel to The Contender, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. The author, Robert Lipsyte, posted a comment on my blog and suggested I read it. Sonny Bear wants to escape the Indian reservation where his uncle keeps telling him tales about tribal warriors. Sonny heads to New York City to be with his mother, but he ends up getting conned by a drug dealer. He's arrested by a middle-aged cop by the name of Alfred Brooks, the main character from The Contender. Alfred wants Sonny to get evidence against the drug dealer, but Sonny doesn't want to be a snitch. Sonny starts to box in Alfred's old gym in order to stay out of prison. Just like Alfred in book one, Sonny must learn to control his inner monster and become a contender in life.

The format of this book is very similar to The Contender. Sonny finds he must deal with life on the streets, he finds discipline in boxing, and then the book describes his fights in the ring. Again, I enjoy reading stories where the main character must overcome huge odds to become successful, although Sonny's obstacles didn't seem to be as difficult as the ones Alfred overcame. Readers who like characters escaping the hard life of the city and to read about boxing will surely enjoy this book.

Lexile level from lexile.com 650

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Wildfire Run by Dee Garretson

This book was recommended by our school librarian, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. An earthquake hits Missouri, while the president and his son are visiting Camp David. Camp David is a private residence for presidents located in Maryland wilderness. The president returns to the White House, but a forest fire overtakes the area around Camp David, endangering everyone left. The secret service attempts to get the president's son, Luke, and two of his friends to safety, but the fire spreads too quickly through the drought-ravaged grass and trees. All of the bodyguards are injured, so Luke and his friends must escape on their own. Camp David's security system against terrorist attacks complicates the situation.

The first part of the book took longer to get to the major conflict than necessary; it took almost one hundred pages before the characters realized a forest fire was close by. How is it possible for a forest fire to get within a mile of the presidential compound before the secret service or park rangers notice? The kids are the first ones to see smoke. However, the action was pretty constant throughout the last two-thirds of the plot. The kids battled injuries, fire, heat, smoke, electric fences, and other obstacles as they found themselves surrounded by danger. Several times, Luke thought he had the solution to get rescued, but something wrong always happened. He finally changed his father's motto from meeting obstacles head on to always having a back-up plan. The first third of the book was interesting, but the action in the last two-thirds of the book was entertaining.

Lexile level from lexile.com 690

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Yellow Flag by Robert Lipsyte

I chose this book because of the author, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Kris Hildebrand is a popular stock car driver, but he is forced to take a break due to a concussion. His younger brother, Kyle, takes over for him and does pretty well. The conflict actually revolves around Kyle, because he is forced to make some tough decisions between racing and his school band. He's a gifted trumpet player training for an important performance, but auto racing is forcing him to miss a number of practices. He's feeling pressure from his teacher, classmates, and family about making a commitment to the band or racing. He also has girl issues as he is interested in another member of the band and also a new member of the racing crew.

I'll be honest that many readers may not enjoy this book, because it's mostly about auto racing. I normally would not have chosen a book like this myself, but I enjoyed The Contender which was written by the same author. I enjoy sports, and I liked learning about the backstage workings and strategy of stock car racing. The book includes several car races, and that adds action to the plot. Kyle's family just wants him to do well and be safe, but he has a competitive spirit that pushes him to excel and take risks. His personal conflicts are also unusual and interesting as Kyle must deal with his family's fame and living in the shadow of his popular brother.

Lexile level from lexile.com 710

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Contender by Robert Lipsyte

I first read this book when I was in middle school, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Alfred Brooks lives in Harlem and finds himself in a hopeless setting. Amongst the old, dirty buildings, broken glass, winos, and drugs, Alfred is trying to make the right decisions to give himself a better life. It's hard to do when all of the people around you say you don't have a chance and are trying to pull you back down. Alfred discovers Mr. Donatelli's gym and decides to become a boxer. The first few weeks of training are physically demanding, but Alfred starts to enjoy his early-morning runs followed by workouts at the gym. Mr. Donatelli tells Alfred, "It's the climbing that makes the man. Getting to the top is an extra reward." Alfred doesn't realize it at the time, but Mr. Donatelli is telling him that he must become a contender in his own life.

I'll admit that this book may not appeal to everyone. It was a quicker read than I remembered way back when, and the author did a great job of putting the reader into Alfred's shoes. I appreciated the author's ability to describe Alfred's problems and obstacles, but he was also able to describe the internal conflicts that were running through his mind. I enjoy books where characters overcome seemingly impossible odds to become successful. We don't know for sure how Alfred's life turns out, but we know that he's a contender.

Lexile level from lexile.com 760